Date of this Version

February 2003

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Details

This article is published in On Line opinion: (Australia's ejournal of social and political debate)
Wilson, P.R. (2003) Despite DNA testing, injustices will continue without proper investigation. On Line Opinion. 5 February.
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[Extract] It took 40 years, a huge amount of money, the efforts of crusading author Estelle Blackburn and her book, Broken Lives, a newspaper editor, and an American car-crash testing expert to clear Perth man John Button of the 1963 manslaughter of his girlfriend.

...Button's saga provides a typical example of the huge amount of work, money and effort that is necessary in rectifying a miscarriage of justice. A great deal of effort was also necessary to correct the outcomes of other such cases including those of Lindy Chamberlain, Harry Rendall, Frederick McDermott, Edward Splatt, Alexander McLeod-Lindsay, Kelvin Condren and the Mickelberg brothers. Yet these examples represent only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to miscarriages of justice. The fact that these miscarriages were reversed, or that at least those wrongly convicted were released from prison, owed more to the doggedness of their supporters than any self-correcting capacity of the criminal justice system itself.

...Button's miscarriage was overturned only because of his lawyer's perseverance in insisting on thorough DNA testing. But to assume that DNA testing is a panacea for uncovering miscarriages would be foolish. ...If Australian police emulate their American counterparts by abandoning traditional law enforcement investigative techniques and trawling through DNA databases looking for DNA matches without supporting evidence, then the potential for miscarriages is in fact only increased further.



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